Understanding Wills, Trusts, and Estates and how they can help you and your family is an important part of managing your assets as you age.


A Last Will and Testament is a document that formally states how your assets are to be distributed once you are gone. Within the Will, you name an executor who is the person in charge of settling your estate, paying your debts and distributing your assets to your beneficiaries. You can also nominate someone you would prefer to be the legal guardian of your children if you die before they reach the age of 18.  You can also establish a Trust within your Will to determine at what age you want your children to receive your estate assets.  You can provide for disabled children, your pets and for charities in your Will as well.

Failing to create a will while you are still physically and mentally capable of doing so will result in the state distributing your assets according to the terms set under the law, which may not be what you prefer.  This could result in unintended consequences which could have been avoided had you made legal arrangements in advance. This is especially true in blended families.


Trusts are another tool available for managing your estate. Many people consider a trust superior to a will when it comes to transferring assets because trusts avoid probate court proceedings.  However, Trusts can also be included within your Will allowing estate assets to pass from your Will to a Trust. Trusts can also provide protection to children and spouses from previous marriages, and ensure that your wishes are carried out without legal challenge. This is not always the case when it comes to a Will.  Trusts also allow out of state property to pass to your beneficiaries without the need to go through probate in another state.


Your estate is made up of the assets you have accumulated throughout your life. It can include real property, financial investments, and other things like automobiles, art and other personal property, like heirlooms. In most cases, an individual has specific intentions for his or her estate after death. Regardless how you want your assets distributed, it is important to work with an experienced professional when the time comes to plan your estate.

Estate planning is beneficial because:

  • It ensures your estate assets go where you want with as little interference as possible from outside influences
  • It provides for different scenarios in the event that certain loved ones or beneficiaries predecease you or pass in a common accident
  • Provides an opportunity to reward or honor people and organizations that helped you throughout your life
  • Eases the burden your family faces after you are gone
  • Could save money on taxes, legal fees, and other expenses associated with the aftermath of your death
  • Protects investments
  • Ensures your assets are protected should you become incapacitated or require long-term care
  • Gives you peace of mind

If you are ready to plan your estate and you need assistance with a will or a trust, or you have questions about which of these tools is right for you, contact the Long Island law firm of Harms & Harrigan, LLP.